||Issue No. 234||20 August 2004|
Interview: Trading Places
Safety: Snow Job
Politics: In the Vanguard
Unions: Gentle Giant Goes For Gold
Bad Boss: 'Porker' Chases Blue Ribbon
International: Cruising For A Bruising
History: Under the Influence
Economics: Working Capital
Review: Fahrenheit 9/11
Poetry: Bad Intelligence Rap
Satire: Osama Bin Manchu
The Locker Room
Tom Relieves Himself
System Screws Workers
RTA Counts Cheapie Cost
The safety standoff halted progress on a new busway out of Blacktown in Sydney’s west.
CFMEU activists swooped on the site, where 47 fibro houses were being demolished, after public complaints about the smashing of asbestos sheeting, and the lack of perimeter fencing.
They discovered workers hadn't been issued with protective equipment or received "rudimentary" training in asbestos handling or general safety.
CFMEU secretary, Andrew Ferguson, called on the Roads and Traffic Authority to lift its game by taking compliance records into account when assessing tenders.
"The RTA keeps handing these jobs to blatant shonks on the basis of cost," Ferguson said. "It was caught red-handed at Liverpool, in similar circumstances earlier this year, now this blows up.
"It feels it has to award work to the absolute cheapest tenderer but, when you are dealing with safety, cheapest is very rarely best. You don't have to be an industry expert to know human lives are at stake when you are handling asbestos."
Ferguson said the RTA had awarded the demolition contract to Coastal Developments which, in turn, sub-contracted the job.
"In addition to the serious OH &S breaches, the union uncovered workers compensation fraud, taxation irregularities and non compliance with superannuation and award entitlements," Ferguson said.
He also queried the "disinterest" of the federal government's Building Industry Taskforce in the Blacktown "rorts".
The union is demanding that the contractor be sacked and that the work, and workforce, be taken over by a competent asbestos removal company.
Labor Council is seeking an urgent meeting with Roads Minister Carl Scully about RTA tendering policies.
Miners Trump Rio's Millions
Five Queensland miners have returned to work after a six-year battle against Rio Tinto.
The Industrial Relations Commission found the five were unfairly dismissed from a central Queensland coal mine in an act of "victimisation" by the company.
Ned Appleton, Athol Finger, Don Halverson, Morgan Lindley and Bryan Walsh have all been reinstated, while two other men will start at the Hail Creek mine in October.
Health reasons precluded three other miners from returning to the industry.
Appleton says the men are looking forward to returning to work at the Blair Athol mine.
"The brave and victimised Blair Athol coal mine workers finally received justice," says Bruce Watson of the CFMEU mining division. "That these men and their families should have been subjected to almost six-years of victimisation and all the hardships that brings is a disgrace."
"That their unfair dismissal case could be dragged on for that long by a vindictive and powerful multinational is a gross miscarriage of justice inflicted on the Australian community by the Howard Government's rotten industrial laws."
Watson pointed out that the laws provide no time limit on unfair dismissal cases and allow only a maximum six months wages in compensation for workers found to have been unfairly dismissed.
"Under Howard's laws, an ordinary worker, doesn't have a snowball's chance in hell against a corporate giant like Rio Tinto," says Watson. "Our Union estimates that Rio spent in excess of $6 million in legal fees to keep out the Blair Athol 16."
The full bench of the AIRC in handing down its decision slammed the use of dodgy medical reasons to victimise staff.
The decision singled out the practices of Dr Peter Fenner, the nominated medical adviser for a number of Rio Tinto mines in Central Queensland.
The decision criticised Dr Fenner for being evasive and changing his evidence; being contradictory in his approach to medical examinations; having a poor understanding of his legal obligations as a nominated medical advisor; and exaggerating his professional status (i.e. claiming to be a specialist when he was not).
Fenner was involved in assessing whether miners were fit to return to work.
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